- Rivett, Norman C
- Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1998 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
“Built 40 years ago at Greenock, Scotland, for Mr. Vanderbilt, the American millionaire, the steamer Sealark has had a varied career. She is a composite ship having an iron frame and wooden hull. Her hull is built of American elm and teak. The Sealark was purchased from Mr. Vanderbilt by an Italian Count and later passed into the hands of the Earl of Crawford, who renamed her Wanderer. The Count made cruises in her to all parts of the world. This closed her career as a yacht and she became a Navy survey ship. Nine months ago she was purchased by Mr. J. R. Patrick.”
In his unpublished manuscript, “A Short History of Garden Island” dated 4th December 1922, the Rev. V. W. Thompson, RAN, in his inimitable style adds to the already confused tale of Sealark in the following manner. “The facts (?) concerning the Sealark are as follows: She was built to the order of Colonel the Earl of Crawford by Courlay Brothers and Co., at Dundee, in 1887, and was officially named as Consuelo. The reason for the choice of this name appears to have been a sentimental one. The Earl of Crawford was Colonel of the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. The Duke of Manchester married, in 1876, Consuelo, daughter of Senor Antonio Yznaga del Valle and the Colonel of The Manchester Regiment is believed to have named his new yacht in honour of the wife of the unofficial patron of his Regiment. The description of the Consuelo is given in Lloyd’s Register of Yachts, (1900). Screw-schooner, 267-70 ton, 165 feet long, beam 27 feet, depth 14 feet 5 inches, owned by Colonel the Earl of Crawford, belonging to the port of London. She was registered in the Royal Yacht Squadron. She was sold some time later than 1900 to Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt. I can find no record of her ever being the property of an Italian Count, though she may have been chartered by such a person. Sometime in her career she was named Wanderer, for she possessed both nameplates when the British Admiralty purchased her. It is possible that Mr. Vanderbilt renamed her, and that she was laid up in British waters and offered for sale, the name by which she was best known was restored.”
The Rev. V W. Thompson most certainly did not sight Lloyd’s Register of yachts, for other than the owner and the fact that the vessel was a screw schooner, none of the data quoted accords with that given in Lloyd’s Register of yachts. He would also have found the vessel’s previous names given in chronological order.
Perusal of Lloyds Register of Yachts before and after 1900 reveals that Consuelo, by any name, was never owned by Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt; indeed he had a 2,000 ton steam yacht named Valiant built at Birkenhead, England, as recently as 1892, to replace his steam yacht Alva lost in a collision. Compared with Valiant, Consuelo at 559.82 tons was definitely small fry. It was an odd thought by the Rev. Thompson that Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt, having an only daughter named Consuelo whom he adored, and she him, would have changed the name of the yacht Consuelo to, of all names, Wanderer.
Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt was a prominent member of the prestigious New York Yacht Club, as were other yachting members of the family. In 1858, William C. Come, a member of the club, used his yacht Wanderer whilst flying the club’s burgee, to transport 300 West African slaves to the United States of America. Come was expelled from the Club and members were forbidden to even mention the name of the yacht or its owner. Vanderbilt would have been well aware of this prejudice against the name Wanderer and it is highly improbable that he would have used the name for any of his yachts.
In order to answer the second part of my earlier question I resolved to trace the history of the vessel we knew as Sealark, using such relevant copies of Lloyd’s Yacht Register as were available to me and by bridging the gaps by the use of reliable nautical publications.
Built as the steam yacht (S.Y) Wanderer at Greenock, Scotland by Messrs. Robert Steele & Co. under the superintendence of Mr. J. E. Spencer C. E., London, to the order of Mr. C. J. Lambert of Park Lane, London.